USDA-NRCS Conservation Practice Standard: Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum Products

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The US Department of Agriculture National Resource Conservation Service is tasked with providing support to preserve the nation’s natural resources.  They provide farmers with financial and technical assistance to voluntarily put conservation practices on the ground by promoting methods to preserve and improve natural resources and promoting Best Management Practices for environmentally sound farm production.  The NRCS uses technical guides or “Conservation Practice Standards”, which contain technical information about the conservation of soil, water, air, and related plant and animal resources, as the primary scientific references for this process.  Recently, the NRCS has developed a new national conservation practice standard for the use of gypsum to improve soil resources.  This presentation will discuss the specifics of this standard and the particular relevance to animal waste management.

The NRCS national conservation practice standards entitled “Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum Products” has the following definition: using gypsum- (calcium sulfate dihydrate) derived products to change the physical and/or chemical properties of soil.  The standard outlines the use of gypsum for four different purposes, two of which are directly related to animal waste management.  These two purposes are: 1) Improve surface water quality by reducing dissolved phosphorus concentrations in surface runoff and subsurface drainage, and 2) Improve water quality by reducing the potential for pathogens and other contaminants from moving from areas of manure and biosolids application.  The specific guidance provided in the standard for these two purposes will be discussed.  There are also concerns regarding gypsum use in agriculture which are addressed in the standard.  The guidance regarding these concerns will also be discussed.  Within NRCS, the promotion of Best Management Practices for the natural resource conservation is handled on a state by state bases.  This allows each state to focus on the issues that are most important for their specific region.  An update of the current activities of the NRCS for financial and technical assistance in regards to gypsum use will be discussed.    


H. Allen Torbert

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